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  • Writer's pictureGareth Owens

Route 66 - Day 20 - Needles to Victorville

Bottle Tree Ranch - Oro Grande, CA

Google mileage: 175

Actual mileage: 200

Total trip mileage: 2,949

I struggled to get out of bed this morning, but finally hauled myself out of bed and walked across the road from the Rio Del Sol Inn to the Wagon Wheel for a not too hearty breakfast of waffles and maple syrup. Add another pound to the Route 66 weight gain program.

The road today is easy to follow, mostly frontage or straight forward back roads and only one junction's worth of interstate riding very early in the day.

The day was to be one of our hottest with temperatures of over 100, so we made regular water stops. Alisa also got splattered by a bug, which happened to leave its sting in her, so we made an impromptu stop to remove it and to check that she was OK. 

We passed through a number of ghost or semi ghost towns; little communities that were on one alignment of Route 66 or another, but effectively bypassed and made redundant when the interstate was built. They tend to be a mix of homes and burnt out or falling down business premises, mostly gas stations and diners.

The terrain is now desert, sand, rocks, cacti and Yucca type plants with the occasional palm. Alisa has almost run over a couple of lizards that scuttled across the road. As we descended into the Mojave we wondered why people live here and what it must of been like to travel West across this from the dust bowls of Oklahoma.  I really should read Grapes of Wrath.

Our first real stop was at Roy's Cafe and Motel, which is half way between Needles and Ludlow. It really is in the middle of nowhere. The Cafe is a must-see stop and was featured, I'm told, in Disney's 'Cars' movie. A cold Coca Cola was much needed as we wandered around, taking photos and chatting to locals and several Harley riders who had arrived around the time we did.

Roy's Motel and Cafe - Amboy, CA

Roy's Motel and Cafe - Amboy, CA

Roy's Motel and Cafe - Amboy, CA

Once on the road again we grabbed lunch 20 or so miles down the road at Ludlow, again a hamlet just hanging on to existence from tourist and trucker trade.

The next stretch of road covered about 25 miles to the famous Bagdad Cafe and was marked on our guide book as 'rough'. It turned out to be the worst piece of road that we have ridden so far. It wasn't dirt, but the road had degraded so badly that the top was loose, rutted, with big potholes and areas where the desert had encroached on the road or had washed over it in the recent rain. Due to the shaking, Alisa had to stop several times to get the feeling back in her hands. It was the best test of the bikes' suspensions to date. I found that getting up to 60 or 70 eloped the bike skip over the bumps and effectively evened out the ride, but I slowed down as I didn't want to hit a bad patch at that speed.

The Bagdad Cafe at Newberry Springs was a welcome bit of cool after the midday heat. The place was made famous by the film and is now a bit of a tourist trap, (I don't think it's even the original cafe). It's run by an enthusiastic lady who greets everybody in French and demands that you stand behind the counter and get your photo taken - in French. Visiting the cafe was fun, and one of the most surreal experiences of the trip.

The home stretch saw us stop at Barstow at one of the Harvey Houses, which now also houses a Route 66 museum, (closed when we arrived) and just outside Barstow, The Bottle Tree Ranch at Oro Grande. This was an unexpected delight and a spot we spent much longer at than we anticipated, as we walked around the sculptures, chatting and taking photos. The bottle tree ranch was set up by local artist Elmer Long in 2000 and should definitely be on your list of folk art to see when you hit Route 66.

We pulled into our rest stop for the night, the Travel Inn and Suites, Victorville, CA, at about 6pm ready for more cool drinks and a shower. Later we went out for some excellent sushi at Tokyo Sushi a few blocks up the road. 

All in all, a good day on the road, the stops proved more interesting than expected, the views were once again amazing and we didn't get too roasted in the desert heat.

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